To be beautiful is not a goal, but for Miren Bengoa, executive director of Fondation Chanel, “by feeling beautiful a woman feels empowered.”
Women’s empowerment is the clear mission of the French fashion house’s corporate foundation. Launched in 2011, it has worked quite discreetly over the past four years. “We needed to identify a number of partnerships and see them through before we publicized the existence of the foundation,” Bengoa told Devex in Paris, on the sidelines of the Convergences Forum where she spoke in a panel addressing the development potential of vulnerable populations.
Managed by a staff of just three people, the foundation is working on 20 projects in 15 countries, focused on development rather than humanitarian aid projects. “That is key for one reason,” said Bengoa. “We want to monitor the projects quite closely and to visit them, so we decided that for a corporate foundation it wasn’t appropriate to go to emergency fields or to unstable countries.”
Chanel has set about 20 partnerships with international and nongovernmental organizations, as well as social businesses and aims at keeping a “very diverse portfolio” of projects on its books. The foundation’s policy, Bengoa explained, is not to launch frequent calls for proposals, but rather to seek out partners through its contact network, or through direct applications for funding via its website.